The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
Author: Laurie R. King
Publish Date: 1994
Series: Mary Russel, Book 1
Rating: A +
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is the first book in Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, but I actually didn’t pick it up until after I read the three novels that follow it. Honestly, I think I preferred it this way as the book read like a prequel for me. This was primarily because the first half of the novel is a little episodic, focusing on Holmes and Mary getting to know each other.
After her parents and younger brother died in a car wreck, sixteen year old Mary Russell is sent to live with her aunt in England. Unfortunately, the aunt is a tyrant who only keeps her niece around because of the allowance she receives for taking care of Mary. In order to escape the toxic atmosphere of the house, Mary typically roams around the countryside dressed in her father’s old clothes and reads. On one of these romps, Mary stumbles across a man closely watching a small cluster of bees. After a brief conversation, where they both manage to insult each other, Mary figures out that she’s talking to the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Impressed by Mary’s aptitude in deducting not only who he is, but also why he was watching a group of bees, Holmes convinces Mary to let him teach her his trade. Over the years, Holmes and Mary become close friends with a low level spark of attraction between them. But, being the magnet for danger he is, Holmes is soon targeted by an old enemy and Mary finds herself entangled in the whole affair.
I really adored this book. The beginning is compiled of small adventures that Mary has while learning from Holmes. It was fun watching Mary during these parts because she really comes into her own and makes the effort to differentiate herself from Holmes’ larger-than-life personality. One of my favorites moments was her subtle flaunting of the fact that she’s pursuing a degree in theology, much to Holmes’ annoyance. However, the book didn’t really pick-up and gain focus until the second part when the main mystery is introduced.
Part two begins when the people close to Holmes become the targets of an assassin, leading him and Mary to begin a long search to find the person behind the attacks. There’s a lot of attraction that hums between Holmes and Mary in this section of the book, which I really loved. You can feel Holmes constantly trying to resist exposing his feelings about Mary while, at the same time, battling the attraction due to their age difference. This was a fantastic read, but I’m up in the air on whether or not I would recommend reading The Beekeeper’s Apprentice later in the series or in chronological order. Most of these books can stand on their own, so either way works.